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Hand of Madison, like hundreds of teams across the country, utilizes the no-huddle, pass-first system created by Louisiana Tech offensive coordinator Tony Franklin.
Last Friday, when the Tigers' offense stalled out against Hillhouse of New Haven, they switched to an old-school attack — direct snap, running football.
Matthew Sullivan entered the game late in the third quarter to run Hand's version of the "Wildcat."
Sullivan immediately led the Tigers to a long touchdown drive, and they went on to win, 37-19.
"He's phenomenal," Tigers coach Steve Filippone said of Sullivan. "He's unbelievable. He's going to be our package guy."
Sullivan, all 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds of him, ran 10 times for 142 yards. That included a 52-yard touchdown on his first play late in the second quarter.
The defending CIAC Class L champion Tigers led by as much as 16 points, but were clinging to a 23-19 lead late in the third quarter. Their offense had gone out-of-whack on their previous four drives, two of which ended in interceptions.
Enter Sullivan, who led a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Every play was a run, and Sullivan had five carries for 52 yards.
"We have a few other tricks that he can do," Filippone said. "He is a quarterback, and he can throw a football pretty darn well, too, on certain things … He's going to be somebody that I think defenses are going to have to scheme for. 'Okay, when that kid comes into a game, there's certain things that we have to be able to do to stop him.'"
It was rather amazing to watch Hand beat the Academics' defense with a simple direct snaps and runs. Everyone at Bowen Field knew that either Sullivan or running back Ian O'Toole were going to run the ball, but Hillhouse couldn't stop it.
The Academics aren't the first team to be troubled by direct snap, running football. The New England Patriots didn't know what to do when the Miami Dolphins surprised them with the "Wildcat" during a 2009 game.
"It's a little bit unusual," Filippone said of direct snap football. "It's not unusual anymore, but the ball is coming from depth. You can get angles in terms of running the ball that you can't get from under center. In other words, you can't get flat angles from under center unless you're in split-back veer.
"So you're getting angle football, you're getting backs running laterally, so that they can visualize the line of scrimmage and see the holes. … Every play is an option play, believe it or not. All the times (Sullivan), there were all but two plays called for him. All the other ones, he was pulling the ball off something he read. So we're really running double option, that's what we're doing. And that's why it is what it is.
"Look at what North Haven does (which uses the single wing). Look at what some of these other teams have done with direct snap football and misdirection and everything else. It's a beautiful thing. It's how the game began, and we're coming back full circle. We're reverting back. Pretty soon, everybody will have four backs in the backfield, nobody will know where the ball is, and you'll just have to tackle everybody. That's what you'll do."
Hand (2-0), which is tied for third with Staples of Westport in The Day's Top 10 state coaches' poll, plays host to unbeaten Cheshire Friday (7 p.m.)
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Danbury had one of the weekend's most unlikely wins. It wasted a 13-point, fourth-quarter lead, but won 15-14 on a late safety.
The Hatters began the quarter with a 13-0 edge. Hamden cut into their lead when Spencer Thomas caught a 22-yard touchdown from Eli Bonadies.
Danbury botched the ensuing kickoff, and Hamden's Trevor Perry recovered the ball at the Hatters' 5-yard line.
Derrick Bonaparte scored on the next play, and Bonadies' two-point conversion gave the Green Dragons' a 14-13 lead.
On it's next drive, Danbury got as close as the Hamden 11-yard line with less than four minutes left and turned the ball over on downs. The Green Dragons went three-and-out.
Hamden lined up to punt, and the snap went through the hands of the punter and landed in the end zone.
The Green Dragons' Akeemo Dixon fell on the ball to prevent a Danbury touchdown and was called for a safety.
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Reading material FOR YOU:
Sean Bowley: "Elite 8: Week 3"
Bryant Carpenter, Meriden Record-Journal: "Tuesday Morning QB: Brothers in Arms"
Mike Pucci, New Haven Register, "Law, Westhill snap losing skids"
Mark Jaffee, Waterbury Republican-American, "What we learned in Week 2: Wolcott, Gilbert/NW have special talents"
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DeAngelo Berry ran for 166 yards and four touchdowns as top-ranked Xavier of Middletown thrashed North Haven Friday, 49-12. Tim Boyle completed 17 of 26 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns for the Falcons, who have won 28-straight games. … Jai' Quan McKnight completed all eight of his passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another as No. 2 Ansonia crushed Woodland of Beacon Falls Friday, 47-16. Andrew Matos caught all three touchdowns and finished with five receptions for 177 yards. … Robert Quinn Fleeting completed 6 of 8 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns and ran seven times for 68 yards and two touchdowns as No. 5 Windsor trounced Bristol Central Friday, 49-7. The Warriors had 408 yards of offense in the first half alone.
Thomas Milone ran for 103 yards and four touchdowns and had five catches for 82 yards for another touchdown to lead No. 6 Masuk of Monroe past New Milford Friday, 41-12. Malik Cummings also threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns. … Eddy Williams ran for three touchdowns and Ervin Philips ran for two as West Haven, also ranked sixth, beat Guilford Friday, 40-28. …. Tyler Janssen had 18 carries for 149 yards and four touchdowns as No. 9 Glastonbury thrashed Newington Friday, 63-28. Ben Berey added a school-record 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, a 29-yard touchdown catch and an interception.
Ackee Barber completed 10 of 13 passes for 241 yards and four touchdowns as New London downed Montville Friday, 38-7. .... Middletown held Bristol Eastern to three first downs and 47 yards of offense in a 43-0 win. Jha'kur West also ran for three touchdowns. .... Ridgefield opened Friday's game by scoring 41 unanswered points in a 41-14 win over Fairfield Ludlowe. Sam Gravitte scored four times for the Tigers.
Davell Cotterell rushing for 193 yards and scoring three times Friday as Westhill of Stamford snapped its 19-game losing streak with a 37-30 overtime win over Trumbull. It was the first time Westhill had beaten the Eagles in the 39-year history of the school. .... Cameron Webb ran 16 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns and caught a 28-yard touchdown — all in the first half — as Stamford beat Norwalk Friday, 48-7. Tyler Kane also threw for 83 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 98 yards and a touchdown. .... Mark Piccirillo completed 14 of 28 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns and ran 11 times for 154 yards to pace Shelton to its 31-8 win over Foran of Milford Friday.
Alex Lockwood ran for 225 yards and four touchdowns on just four carries as Barlow of Redding beat Bethel Friday, 48-20. Lockwood scored on runs of 75, 6, 64 and 80 yards. .... Joe Pacheco had 12 carries for 223 yards and two touchdowns as New Fairfield thrashed Immaculate of Danbury Friday, 49-0. .... Seymour's Jim Vartelas ran for 110 yards and four touchdowns in a 57-12 rout over Sacred Heart of Waterbury Friday.
Amity of Woodbridge had two 100-yard rushers in its 58-14 win over Sheehan of Wallingford Friday. James Semmonella ran for 170 yards and two touchdowns, and Dave Attolino ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Cory Ricks added 95 yards rushing and two touchdowns for Amity, which ran for 543 yards. .... Brad Westmark completed 25 of 35 passes for 391 yards and two touchdowns as Brookfield stunned Bunnell of Stratford last Friday, 33-18. Boeing Brown, who had started the previous two seasons at quarterback, caught seven passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. … Stratford forced six turnovers in Friday's 37-14 win over Notre Dame of Fairfield. Noah Provo (99 yards) and Sergio Colon (30) both scored on interception returns.
David Campbell ran 12 times for 208 yards and three touchdowns as Bloomfield routed East Catholic of Manchester Friday, 53-14. Pedro Roman also threw for 176 yards and three touchdowns. .... Joe DeLucia scored three of his fourt touchdowns in the first quarter Friday as North Branford hammered Haddam-Killingworth, 51-6. DeLucia scored on a 50-yard interception return, a 64-yard catch and runs of 1 and 17 yards. Brandon Basil also completed 10 of 16 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns. … Zach Rollins ran nine times for 202 yards and three touchdowns as Stafford/East Windsor downed Housatonic Regional/Wamogo Friday, 52-20.
Armando Centeno scored on an 18-yard fumble return, forced a safety and added seven tackles as Prince Tech of Hartford beat Whitney Tech of Hamden Friday, 46-0. .... Southington's defense recorded two safeties in one minute and 11 seconds as it beat New Britain Friday, 32-7. … Cameran Tucker ran for 187 yards and four touchdowns as Notre Dame of West Haven crushed Lyman Hall of Wallingford Friday, 49-6.
Vin Sansone had 17 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown and completed three of six passes for 97 yards to lead Cheshire past Branford Friday, 20-0. ... Joe Lynch ran 12 times for 114 yards and four touchdowns as Wolcott rallied from a 21-point deficit Friday to beat Torrington, 39-34. Mike Nicol ran 17 times for 161 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 86 yards for Wolcott. Joan Toribio had 35 carries for 260 yards and two touchdowns for the Red Raiders. … Tony Ortiz ran 22 times for 177 yards and ran for three of his four touchdowns in the fourth quarter of Gilbert/Northwestern Regional of Winsted's 41-26 win over Enfield Friday.
Jordan Vazzano completed 11 of 18 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns and ran seven times for 101 yards and a touchdown as St. Joseph of Trumbull beat Wilton, 34-0. .... Chris Herrera had 17 carries for 122 yards and three touchdowns and ran for three two-point conversions as Crosby of Waterbury edged St. Paul of Bristol Saturday, 56-49. Logan Marchi was 27-of-52 for 386 yards and five touchdowns for St. Paul. .... Derrick Villard ran for 172 yards and three touchdowns as Cromwell blitzed Lewis Mills of Burlington Saturday, 47-14.
Neal Janiga ran for three touchdowns in the first quarter as Ellington/Somers trounced Hartford Sports Medical & Sciences/University Saturday, 47-7. .... Elijah Nixon scored on a 50-yard catch, a 63-yard run and a 74-yard interception to pace Hyde of New Haven past Morgan of Clinton Saturday, 41-10. … Jacob Thomas ran 19 times for 170 yards and three touchdowns as Wilby of Waterbury beat city-rival Kennedy Saturday, 26-12.
John Shannon ran five times for 163 yards and three touchdowns Saturday as Bullard-Havens of Bridgeport beat Wolcott Tech of Torrington, 47-0. .... Henry Baldwin threw for four touchdowns as Darien bested Fairfield Warde Saturday, 44-21.
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Quick story from the great state of Texas — Mike Richardson, a quarterback at Marble Falls High, set a state-record passing record Thursday as he threw for for 725 yards in a 62-55 win over Boerne-Champion.
David Koral of California's Pacific Palisades set the record with 764 yards in 2000 against Van Nuys Grant, Calif.
Richardson completed 35 of 45 passes with seven touchdowns
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Via Bob Barton, the Polecat's cognoscente — St. Paul has surrendered interception returns of more than 90 yards for touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season. Derby's Dillon McMahon scored on a 96-yard interception return in his team's 55-26 win on Sept. 15. Last Saturday, Crosby's Jason Morrison scored on a 95-yard return.
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Speaking of the esteemed Mr. Barton, he and Gerry deSimas Jr. released the 2012 edition of the Connecticut High School Football Record Book. It's a must-have for any state football junkie.
East Lyme returned just five players with any varsity experience and lost its first four games. It's made gradual improvement and downed Woodstock Academy last Friday, 42-7, its second-straight victory.